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Robert and Teresa Lingafelter

August 1, 1948 – May 10, 2020

Teresa was physically small, but she had a big presence. I think anyone who knew her would agree with that. She was razor sharp intellectually, and for that reason she could be testy sometimes, even gruff. In all the years I knew her, I can’t remember Teresa ever letting an idiotic statement stand without rebuttal. If you were the one spouting the idiocy, it could sting. But then, an instant after she slayed your foolish dragon, she would open up with a laugh, a silly joke, a sweetness and a vulnerability that was disarming and warming. She was a good friend.


Teresa was always youthful, with her wide, devilish smile, her forceful point of view, her robust struggles and great delights. But in other ways she seemed older than her years. When I first met her and her husband Bob, along with the band of miscreants who formed a community development cadre at the University of Washington we called Ithaca (yes, after Ithaca of the Odyssey), she was much more mature than me. I skated on the surface; Teresa was deep. She set me straight on many occasions, and I loved her for it. After the UW, Teresa and I lived through various cycles, including working together during an intense period in the seventies when we put our minds to the big idea of social change. After Bob died in 1996, there was a new dimension to our relationship—the humbling fact of our fragility.


If we’re lucky, there are people who come along in life and completely upend the way we think and live. Teresa was like that for me, as was Bob. The Lingafelters barreled into the world, working in some of the most crisis-stricken parts of the nation and the globe, and shook progress from the trees. They were talented and committed, and after Bob died, Teresa proved that she was a genius in urban planning. All those footprints of change. It was something to watch.


Down through the decades, separated by place, circumstances and divergent careers, our little Ithaca group survived as a touchstone of our lives, separate and common. We started getting together occasionally a while ago—kind of a “what’s up?” retreat. More recently we’ve met every two years for a few days at a wonderful house on Whidbey Island in Washington State. I describe these gatherings to friends as college reunions, but they’re not exactly that—more about the future than about memories. We talk about the issues of the day, the change we can make in our disparate corners, and what it will look like to grow old together. That’s what grieves me most—the idea that I won’t grow old with Teresa.


We were looking ahead to our next gathering when Covid struck. My last view of Teresa was on March 21, smiling out of her Zoom box on our first group get-together. She didn’t make it to the second. A brain tumor, hidden from view, its effects masked by the strains of the circumstances surrounding Covid, sneaked up on her while everyone’s attention was focused elsewhere. She didn’t survive the ordeal.


The loss is unspeakable, but in poetry Teresa’s steady voice speaks to me. I can close my eyes and hear Teresa reciting lines from a poem by DH Lawrence, an old favorite called “We are Transmitters”:
Give, and it shall be given unto you is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn’t mean handing it out to some mean fool,

Or letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
Even if it’s only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.

Go in peace, Teresa.

          ~~  Catherine Whitney

Teresa’s nurturing of so many living possibilities on planet earth makes her death on Mother’s Day both sad and joyous.  Joe and I remember her at the Oombulgurri consult in 1975 — as the most “can do,” “we will,” “let’s do it,” person on the auxiliary team.  She inspired all the women (like me, Judy Wiegel, and others) to take on this first HDP Consult with courage — even if it meant daring to confront a King Brown snake that might, in the late hours of evening,  be lurking in the latrine.  We remember and celebrate her life with gratitude.

           ~~   Marilyn and Joe Crocker

Dr.Teresa Lingafelter was born August 1, 1948 in Seattle, WA, daughter of William C. Tobin and Margaret Tobin, and sister to William and Robert Tobin. She married Robert Lingafelter in 1968, and had one daughter, Rebecca Lingafelter in 1978. She was mother-in-law to Mark Valadez, and was made a joyful grandmother by Rosalind Grace Valadez in 2017. She was sister-in-law to Susan Tobin, Tom and Kathy Lingafelter, Jim and Lynn Lingafelter, Dick and Linda Lingafelter and Dan and Kitty Lingafelter. She was aunt to Enoch and Colin Tobin, and Kerrie, Kristie, Sarah, Megan, Tanner and Sam Lingafelter. And a good friend to many.

Teresa spent her life dedicated to the practice of creating a more just and equitable world. Starting in grade school, she organized a strike by the girls crossing guard to petition for new uniforms (which the boys guard had already received). They got the new uniforms. She attended the University of Washington, where she earned her BA in History and met Robert. They joined Ithaca, a community of students and activists, self-described as a “cadre”, working for radical social change. From there, Teresa and Robert joined the Institute of Cultural Affairs whose mission is to build a just and equitable society in harmony with planet Earth. Their work with the ICA took them to the Philippines, Australia,  the inner city of Chicago, Jamaica, Malaysia, and Belgium.


In the mid-eighties, she returned to the United States and began a new chapter working in the Mississippi Delta with PINAH (Partners for Improved Nutrition and Health), an organization that partnered with local community leaders as well as state and local health agencies to address systemic issues of inequality in Mississippi’s healthcare system. From Mississippi, she moved to California to work with the Freedom From Hunger Foundation. In 1993, she began work on a Master’s degree in Urban Planning at UCLA, graduating in 1996, and continuing on to earn her PhD in Urban Planning in 2012. She wrote her dissertation on the citizen-led Neighborhood Planning Program in Seattle, highlighting the ways in which this democratic approach to planning resulted in a more equitable distribution of resources to low-income neighborhoods. In addition to her academic research which ranged from work on participatory action with SEIU and home health workers to a program in south Los Angeles that gave cameras to school children to create visual narratives of their lives in the inner-city, Teresa worked as a consultant for non-profits and other groups, applying her extensive skills in facilitation and strategic planning to a wide range of organizations. These last few years saw her shifting her focus towards family; contributing joyfully to Rosalind’s care, and friends; taking frequent trips to Seattle for reunions with Ithaca and her beloved book club.

Teresa was modest about her own achievements–her PhD, her writing, strategic planning, leading conversations and workshops.  Her analytic mind was awesome to encounter.  At the same time she savored the successes of others with a cry of “brilliant.”  There was a generosity of spirit that pervaded her encounters with others.  Teresa could also be unhesitatingly abrupt when she believed you were not seeing the injustice in a situation. When she was leading a group, she had the ability to step back and provide the space for reflection and insight.

Teresa was a fierce and loyal friend and mother. She loved the newest technology. She was the first to get a smart phone and to use it in all sorts of ways.  She liked to monitor a lot of things, sleep, time on phone, minutes exercising, calories.  She also had a deep historical understanding that kept her focused on justice and equality and the long view.  She had a special interest in medieval history and named her first i-phone, Clovis, after the 5th Century King of the Franks. Teresa was always up for a “field trip”.  A walk in the woods, a boat ride, a survey of the beach, a monitor at the Women’s March all taken with a sense of adventure and joyfulness. She relished encounters with animals especially dogs, though also harbor seals, rabbits, cows, horses, turtles and goats. She approached cooking with a combination of a general and a connoisseur.  She loved figuring out what to cook.  And she was a terrific cook.  She was unafraid to try new things, and encouraged experimentation. She loved dark Norwegian crime novels, Shakespeare, never missed a Marvel movie, and was a self-admitted podcast junkie. She lived her life with profound intention and purpose and touched many lives along her path. She was an incredible human being and she is deeply missed.



This is a shock. When the young ones go before us we tremble a bit in our attempts to grieve. Teresa worked for a few years for us in the FOOD FOR ALL nonprofit Linda and I founded. We helped Teresa and Bob relocate in Redlands, California and Teresa was Director of Grant Programs for us and brought her professional and uncompromising skills to the job. I was the recipient of her no nonsense manner on at least one occasion. We were shocked when Bob died so young and are shocked to learn of Teresa’s going during this Covid-19 thing. Thank you Catherine for the moving tribute to your friend. Grace and Peace,

          ~~  Milan and Linda Hamilton


I remember how delighted Warren and I were when we first met all you “youngsters” of the Ithaca House cadre.  Those were certainly special days! (must have been 1969 or ’70)….  Such high energy and dedication to leaving the world a better place. I never hear a Santana song without thinking of those times.

It was such a shock to hear of Bob’s death so many years ago at such a young age – and now, Teresa – still way too young.  I am so sorry for your loss of such dear friends.  I am hoping that you will be able to have another reunion on Whidbey Island soon to celebrate the special gift to the Universe that was Teresa. With love, sadness and gratitude,

          ~~  Geri Tolman